Barcelona coach Xavi: “I loved Van Bommel as a player but also as a person, you can see his stamp at Antwerp”

At the FC Barcelona press conference a day before the match, there was not really much interest in Antwerp because of the Spanish journalists. Trainer Xavi Hernandez (43) and midfielder Oriol Romeu (31) had to wait for our questions before they could tell us something about Antwerp.

Ludo Vandewalle in Barcelona

In the 2005-06 season, current Antwerp coach Mark van Bommel was a player for FC Barcelona. He played there together with current Barça coach Xavi. The question puts a smile on the lips of the otherwise serious-looking Xavi.

“I have great memories of Mark Van Bommel,” said Xavi. “As a teammate, as an opponent, because he was a very strong football player. Physical, with a lot of effort and mentality and the occasional goal. I also have great memories of him as a person in the dressing room. He was a good teammate and a good friend. I think he’s doing well at Antwerp (Antwerp in Spanish, ed.). Last year they became champions and they are simply continuing their level.”

2005: Xavi watches as teammate Van Bommel engages in a fierce duel with a Panathinaikos player. — © Getty Images

Xavi analyzed a little deeper.

“It is a very dynamic opponent. Physically very strong, where the flanks stand out. Ekkelenkamp, ​​the midfielder, he is a good footballer. Janssen is a reference point. Behind it they mix youth with experience. With Alderweireld and they also have a good goalkeeper. Van Bommel lets his team play football, but it is mainly the dynamics in the team that stand out. How they use the flanks. It is a very good team with some technology as well. That’s why they became champions last year.”

Dominant Antwerp

“I especially know Toby Alderweireld,” says Oriol Romeu, the FC Barcelona midfielder. “I played against them a few times in England. I also know Janssen, the striker. On the wings they have two young players with a lot of quality. I also noted some physical players who perform well under pressure. It is a team that comes together well, shows that it has a good level and that it is also used to winning and dominating matches. That could get us into trouble in the Champions League. It won’t be easy.”

“Antwerp can get us into trouble,” said Oriol Romeu. — © AFP

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